July 13th 2013


Up at 5:40, alarm was set for 5:45.  Still needed to get up overnight to use the “facilities”. Breakfast was watery rice and zucchini.  Packed up things and headed to the first school for solar panel installation.  The kids were curious as usual.  We got Erik and Brandon up in the attic chasing spiders and hornets.  Before lunch, the cables were run from the roof to the attic and the measurements were made to be able to drill the rails.  Lunch was rice with a chunk of chicken.  It also had something like peas but it is hard to be sure.  There was also a couple of bananas as usual.  After lunch we got the ground rod in but connecting the conduit to the side of the building was a problem.  We managed to get two anchor points in and called it good.  The translator  hacked off a sugar cane and gave us some of it to try.  It was very sweet.  It was 3:00 before we got the panels ready to install but everything stopped when the rain started.  Back to camp where I managed to get a connection for trading text messages with Antje.  I ran out of underwear and simple shirts because my laundry hasn’t come back yet.  I sent it off on Thursday.  I hand washed one of the backpacking shirts and underwear before dinner.  I was expecting rice and zebu so I was surprised when it was spaghetti.  It actually tasted very good.  Many in the camp still have stomach issues. Likely cause is not treating the water properly.  We did bring our own filter and haven’t had much for issues.  By he time we were done with dinner and a bit of chatting, it was dark.  The camp lights are usually off by 7:00, so if you want to see, bring your own light.  I got in a bucket shower and another round of text messages before heading back to my tent.

July 14th 2013



Up at 6:00, needed to get up twice last night, it was affecting my dreams.  Quick text with Antje as she headed to bed.  Down for breakfast.  It was rice and zebu, but this time it was the leftover meat from last nights spaghetti.  The meat was fine, but I just couldn’t eat that much of the watery rice. My laundry bag was back 🙂 I only need to wear my underwear twice.  But of the 14 items I sent, 4 made it back.  I was suspicious when I found a sport bra and various outer items that were obviously not mine.  Opening someone else’s bag, I did find everything.  The cotton socks were still very wet but the rest was fine.  I let a Erik and Kieth check their emails on the iPad.  Off at 7:45, back to the first school to get the panels installed.  The weather looks good. We managed to get the panels on the roof and wires run.  Got done about 1:30 and a few sprinkles started as we were finishing up.  But we don’t need to get back up on the roof again.  Back to KAS for lunch, rice and meat.  We sorta took a vote and decided that it was beef.  I didn’t each much of the meat, but ate most of the rice.  There was cucumber salad and it was actually rather good, just not much of it.  We headed over to the second school to take a bunch of measurements about 2:45.  Got the ground rod in place and sent two guys into the attic.  Ceiling is 3.6 meters off the floor.  We had limited time, it gets dark here early.  Managed to get the grounding rod in and all the grounding wires run to the attic.  Headed back for dinner.  The special of he day was rice and meat.  I think it was pork but entirely sure.  There were beans on it also and a banana on the side.  After dinner, back up to the loft in the dark to trade a few text messages with Antje before hitting the shower and putting away the laundry.

July 15th 2013


Slept just ok last night, got woken up by a mosquito then figured out that I forgot to zip up the tent.  I zipped up and spent 5 minutes hunting down the one that was inside.  Got him.  It is to be a lazy morning.  Sleeping in is never actually an option, when the sun is up, you get up.  Breakfast was rice without meat, it did have some herbs in it.  I got to the cook before she brought it out and got a much smaller portion.  Almost finished it.  Short meeting to plan the afternoon.  It looks like we might get to the Indian Ocean later in the week.  The rest of the morning is just a bit of down time.  It was nice, I got a chance to read for a couple of hours.  Lunch was ok this time, kind of potato and carrot stew on rice.  I think I have the hardest time with the meat.  We headed over to the second school and started in again.  We got a few wires run in conduit and the rails drilled and put up on the roof.  I managed to get two of the four ropes (safety) over the roof after Erik missed on two attempts. Always nice to show someone in their mid 20s how to do it.  We quit about 4:50 and locked everything in the school for the night.  The plan is to return tomorrow about 8:00 and mount the panels to the rails. The local carpenter constructed what we call the battery box.  It holds circuit breakers and the controller as well as the batteries.  Overall a productive day.  Dinner was fried chicken on rice.  The meat was good, but the rice was, well rice.  Included with dinner was the customary banana.  Managed to get the iPad charged to 100%.  Don’t think I will get to the showers tonight.

July 16th 2013

Up 6:15, breakfast was mixed veggies on rice.  Couldn’t eat all of it even after requesting a “smaller portion”.  The gang put the first coat of paint on the battery boxes.  I continued reading “Gulp” until we were ready to go about 8:00.  Brandon has a head cold and was going to take the morning off.  When we got the first panel on the roof it became obvious the bracket wasn’t going to fit and it needed to be taken back down to be drilled.  It looked like rain was coming so we got everybody off the roof and finished drilling the panels.  The threat of rain passed and we had the first panel bolted on the roof by a bit after 11 but it is only held by the top rail.  The second panel is up by noon but both still need to be drilled for the bottom rail.  We decided to push on and take a late lunch so we could finish all the roof stuff here.  It isn’t a nice roof to work on.  All roof work is done as of about 1:00.  Back for lunch, beans and rice, no meat.  Tasted ok, I was hungry.  The rest of the afternoon is painting the battery boxes, I just spent most the time reading.  I managed to get a bucket shower in about 5:00, the first time when it was still light out.  Dinner was zebu and rice.  This time the meat was a better cut, almost like steak.  One thing I forgot to mention is for every meal the only utensil you get is a rather large spoon.  I ended up picking up pieces of meat and chewing them apart.  They ran the generator for a couple of hours tonight so I charged the iPad and the Canon battery.  After a bunch of conversation, I took my malaria pill, brushed my teeth, and headed up to the loft.  It is only 8:15 or so but most everybody has crashed.

July 17th 2013

Up at 6:15 and unlocked the gate.  Breakfast was the same as last nights dinner, but the meat was ground up. The team headed back by both schools to verify where the holes are going to get drilled.  Back to camp by 9:00.  The guys got busy drilling holes and mounting the electronics in the boxes.  By lunch they had just about everything ready for wiring.  Lunch started off as zebu on rice with a bit of onion in it.  But instead of bananas, we had fresh papaya, a welcome change.  Sunny today and quite warm but still nice in the shade.  Spent the afternoon sorta watching the team wire up everything as I read.  I got to near the end of The Ocean at the Lane before dinner, might struggle in the dark to finish it.  Dinner was good, no rice!  We had a vegetable soup with small pieces of toasted garlic bread.  It was good, I had way too many pieces of bread.  Dark by the time we were done and I went back upstairs to figure out what laundry to process.  I sent in 14 pieces for 2,000 ariary (a bit less than $1).  Back to the loft to text Antje as Kati heads off to college. Texting was slow, so I finished the book and will wait until tomorrow to start the next one.  Finally called a night a bit after 8.


July 18th 2013

Look, I made it into a photo.


Up 6:15 checked email, and was down for breakfast.  No rice, the cook figured out we were getting tired of it.  It was bread with jam, tasted good.  Attempted to identify scratching noise I keep hearing at night, sounds like something is chewing on the wood planks.  The rest of the morning, the team worked on wiring the battery boxes.  I just sat in a comfy chair nearby and read.  Started “What Do Women Want”. And was 30% done by lunch, and 57% by dinner time.  The team finished the box and we tested both of them. All looks good to go for the install on Saturday for the first school. Never left the camp today. Tomorrow is a road trip to Mananjary, it should be fun, never been to the Indian Ocean before.  Dinner was rice and zebu, but the meat was ground and it had green beans and carrots mixed in.  Flavor was good.

July 19th 2013 Mananjary





Up 6:15, breakfast was eggs on rice.  There were some peppers and stuff mixed with the eggs, I ate the eggs and left the rice.  We had a short meeting about how to simplify the light install, had issues with metric Philips screwdrivers.  I think my idea will work.  Killed a few minutes by reading, waiting for everybody to be ready to go.  9:00 we headed to Mananjary, it is east of here about 1.5 hours drive.  A huge tree of 18-24″ diameter fell across the road but we managed to get around it.  Semis are not allowed over the Mananjary river.  They have an interesting way of stopping them.  A frame of heavy steal is on both sides.  I shot a few pictures on the way by and a video on the way back.  Bigger trucks unload west of the bridge and smaller trucks take it the rest of the way.  In Mananjary we made several stops, one was to pick up some screwdrivers that would fit another was to pick up some wood planks for support while in the ceiling.  While waiting for them to get someone to cut the plank, I was watching a cock fight outside.  We did take a spin by the hospital and air strip (very small) so we knew where it was in case of emergency.  On to lunch.  Not bad, they even had western toilets. I had the fillet with fries and a regular Coke.  We had a nice view of the ocean. Then a walk to the beach, doesn’t look like swimming would be safe.  The waves were much bigger and it is winter here, very cool out.  I did pick up a few very small shells, but was surprised about the lack of them.  Next up was a short walk to the ice cream place.  Seating was outside and I had the chocolate mint.  Tasted very good, ice cream is a bit hard to find where there isn’t regular power.  The cellular service was 3G and much faster in Mananjary so I managed to upload a couple of photos to Facebook.
A couple more required stops and we headed home.  I sat in the front seat of the truck and the driver would see me lift my camera to shoot a picture and he would slow down so I could get a better shot.  His skill is impressive, but he doesn’t speak English. Back at camp, I traded a few text messages with Antje before Ian let me know that we needed to head out for a meeting at the Kianjavato school.  When we got there, a very large group of people were waiting for something.  Then the doors opened and a large number of students came out.  We stood back as he crowds pushed by and went into the school yard.  Chef Zap (head of schools in area and the guy we were to meet) had a loud speaker to tell the students who passed.  Many very happy students and parents went by before the yard had emptied enough for us to go in.  We met with Chef in his home adjacent to the school yard.  It had an extension cord plugged in to another building that had a solar powered 240VAC outlet.  We had a single incandescent light bulb in the room that would flicker whenever kids would jump on the cable.  He eventually turned off the light and we talked in an almost dark room.  The conversation was through our interperator with 8 of us in a very small room.  Meeting started at 5:15 or so and took about 30 minutes.  Just a bunch of thanks for doing what we were doing and questions about how the system installed last year was working.  Back to camp, it was almost dark and we had dinner.  A large bowl of ramen noodles with a hard boiled egg in it.  There were packets of flavor also.  It was similar to what I ate many years ago when I was cheap, it was ok.  After dinner, I worked on the journal and quit a bit after 7 to mail it out.

July 20th 2013



Up 6:15.  Attempted to get an internet connection, it connected, but no data would go through.  After about 4 or 5 tries, did finally connect well enough to get a couple of text messages back and forth. Breakfast was some sort of mixed veggies on rice.  I ate the veggies, left 90% of the rice.  Packed up most all of my tools and we headed to the first school.  Things went well, got the screen back up over the vent outside.  Sent Brandon and Ian into the attic to handle that part of the work.  The battery box was installed and wired into the solar panel and it started charging the battery.  I disassembled a couple of the light fixtures and verified that my mounting technique will work.  It all looked great and we managed to mount 1 light before lunch and got it wired in so it would actually light.  A small kid came in and sold us a monster pineapple for less than $1.  Back to the camp for lunch, rice and zebu, not impressed, ate the zebu left most of the rice.  Mark D. had requested we take a picture at both lunch time and 12:00 UTC.  I snapped a picture of us at the lunch table.  UTC is later.  By 2:30 we had the second set of lights on.  Progress has been very good, everybody is happy.  All lights up. And running by 5:00 with cables in conduit.  Only thing left is to put a hasp on it so it can be locked.  Back to camp.  Internet seems to connect, but can’t get any data to go.  Text messages and mail just don’t go anywhere.  Dinner was spaghetti and ground zebu. I was hungry so it was good.  Kate brought in a fresh pineapple and it was very good.  We are saving the monster one for Sunday when more of the volunteers will be here.  After dinner, it will be time to take a shower in the dark. Ok I feel a bit cleaner now even if this is well water, not warmed.  Internet has been flaky, hard to even get text messages out, but things improved enough to touch base with Antje.  Suppose I will post my journal and call it a night.  We leave the Kianjavato area a week from tomorrow.

July 21st 2013



Up 6:15, we were allowed to sleep in, but it just isn’t possible here.  Traded text messages with Antje then down for breakfast.  It was sausages on rice.  Tasted ok, didn’t eat much rice.  Back to the loft and watched steam come off of some of the giant leaves as the sun hits them.  Traded a couple more messages with Antje. Close to 10:00 we headed to Kianjavato for market day.  There is a major concert here this afternoon so the number of people here is huge.  I took the GoPro camera because it is a bit less obvious than the Canon.  We walked both side for the full length.  I purchased a …… for Antje.  Didn’t find what I wanted from the blacksmith and the goldsmith was charging way too much per gram.  Will order what I want from the blacksmith later.  This is the main street, the highway traffic is not stopped, but just slowed a bunch as the work their way through the crowd.  Two large trucks passing each other in opposite directions was already a challenge, but we watched the people sorta just spread out to let them do it.  We stopped for a “Fresh”, it was beer, but at 1% alcohol, it doesn’t count.  Had a bit of an apple taste.  My attempts at guessing what dice will come up lost me 1,400 Ariary (something like $0.75).  Haven’t figured out the odds yet.  Back to camp for lunch.  This time it was chicken on rice with something like a salad on the side.  Didn’t eat much rice.  About 2:00 we headed to the school in Kianjavato to upgrade the system they put in last year.  Shouldn’t take very long.  But it took longer than expected, didn’t get done till 4:45.  The guys went over to the concert for 20 minutes, I just headed back.  Traded text messages with Antje and headed shown for dinner.  Dinner was fish and rice.  I ate most of the fish and left most the rice.  An hour or so of conversation with the volunteers and I headed up to the loft.  The moon was looking full and it was very bright out.  Crashed about 9:00.

July 22nd 2013


Up at 6:00, it was cold last night.  Again very high humidity with cooler temperature makes me feel sticky and cool.  Not ideal sleeping condition.  Breakfast was peanut butter on soggy rice.  But we did have a choice between sweet or savory.  The sweet was ok with a bunch of cinnamon on it.  Loaded up the vehicles and headed over to Fotobohitra (school #2). By 11:15 the first string of lights are on.  By the time we broke for lunch, the second string was up and on.  Lunch was rice and zebu.  Did have a carrot salad also.  Like usual, I didn’t eat that much rice.  On the way back to the school, we stopped at the blacksmith to order a half dozen coupcoups.  Well the truck I was in didn’t stop and the driver doesn’t speak English so it was hard to tell him to go back, but we managed.  Nobody had told him where we were going.  Back at the school, all lights were in by 4:00.  Way faster than we expected.  The rest of the finish work was done about 5:00 but by he time we were cleaned up and packed up it was 5:20.  Everybody is happy that we are a full day ahead of schedule.  Back to camp for dinner.  Surprise, it is zebu and rice.  Chatted with the guys a bit, texted with Antje, and took a bucket shower in the dark.  Watched the card game for a bit and called it a night about 8:30.